High Five Skill # 4, oral language, is a fundamental tool for communication and expression that supports children’s cognitive, social and emotional development. Birth to five years is an important period for fostering oral language skills. During these early years, adults play a vital role in creating literacy rich environments that support language skills. Let’s explore some strategies and activities that nurture oral language development from infancy to preschool.
1. Talk, Talk, Talk!
Engage in conversations with children from the moment they are born. Describe what you’re doing, what they’re seeing, and what’s happening around them. This exposure to rich vocabulary and sentence structures helps build their language comprehension and expression.
2. Read Aloud Every Day
Research shows that reading to children is one of the most powerful ways to develop their oral language skills. Choose a variety of genres with diverse representation that are age-appropriate with colorful illustrations and engaging stories. Encourage children to ask questions, predict what happens next, and describe the pictures. Make reading a cherished daily routine.
3. Expand and Extend
When children speak, expand on their words and extend their sentences. For example, if they say, “Doggy run,” you can respond with, “Yes, the doggy is running fast in the park.” This helps expose them to more complex language structures.
4. Sing and Rhyme
Sing nursery rhymes and songs to help children recognize the sounds and rhythm of language. Encourage them to sing along and do actions that correspond to the lyrics to foster an understanding of the patterns and inflections of speech.
5. Play Pretend and Role-Play
Encourage imaginative play where children can engage in pretend scenarios such as playing house, being a doctor, or going grocery shopping. Role-playing allows them to use language in contextually relevant and interactive ways.
6. Explore the World Outside
Outings to parks, zoos, museums, and grocery stores are opportunities to describe what children see, hear, and experience. This broadens their vocabulary and helps them understand the world around them.
7. Limit Screen Time and Encourage Real-Life Interaction
Prioritize real-life interactions over screen time. Face-to-face communication helps children learn to read facial expressions, body language, and vocal tones, which are crucial aspects of effective communication.